And They Call Us Monsters
Author: Ashley Boyd
Date: December 13, 1997
Summary: Shunned by the Norns and hated by the Hand, Gren the Grendel has told himself that he's content to be left alone. When he adopts a baby Norn, his convictions are shaken- and he can't go back to how things were.
Voices. Drifting down from the upper Island, muffled so indistinctly that he couldn't even make out the words. But Gren knew who it was, by the cutish, honey dripping syllables that disturbed his every dream. It was the Norns.
Gren shivered a bit, and crept under the safety of his Observatory. He was afraid, that no one could deny... but inside a terrible rage bubbled. With every Norn, came The Hand. Not to mention the fact that they were disturbing his territory. His. That single thought brought a burning blaze to his eyes.
He muttered every curse his mind could come up with. Something had to be done, but what could he do? Ideas whirled through his head, flashing by and disappearing just as quickly. Finally, after reviewing all of the possibilities, he choked up a little with despair. Nothing could be done unless one of the Norns came down and bothered him personally.
Suddenly, a muted "ding" sounded off, and the lift creaked up. Gren took in a sharp breath, and silently watched the lift as it disappeared through the roof. For a second, he felt an insane giggle rising up in his mouth, but he quickly muffled the urge. If they were to come down, he might as well drive them out dignantly. He scuffled about, and tried to brace his bulky body for the fight. The lift creaked down...
...and in it was a beautiful female norn. Her eyes were away from him for the moment, hazel eyes cast downwards on the floor. A charming smile was on her face, and she stood up and examined the gaudy lift buttons. Gren stood motionless, staring rudely towards the young blonde norn as she moved her hand over the down button. He gave off and abrupt growl, and she wheeled towards him quickly, shock drawn over her face.
"And who do we have here? A norn? Not only that, but a foolish norn trespassing on my domain," Gren spat out, stepping towards the girl awkwardly. She stared at him fearfully, looking as if the concept of this situation hadn't even been registered in her mind. Suddenly, she gasped and frantically slammed at the up button. However... not before Gren could step up in the lift with her.
As soon as they reached the top, Gren gave her a head wheeling slap. The norn cried out in pain, and landed on her side, eyes staring guiltily up in the beast's face. They both stared each other down, gasping down deep breaths. When the girl finally withdrew her eyes, closing them as if unable to bear the sight, Gren took the precious moment to survey his upper Island.
"Anything and everything in its place," he thought smugly, a small smirk upon his lips. That is, until he caught sight of the small, oval object at the end of the dock. He gawked, not believing that he was seeing this, of all things, on his land. Finally, he ran up to the norn, took her shoulders and started shaking her.
"I can't believe this! You come here, acting like the Queen of all Albia, and then you lay an egg here! An EGG!" Fuming, the Grendel threw her down, growling dangerously. "What makes you think I should spare your little meaningless life?"
"I-... that is-... I-I didn't mean to!" she gasped. "I'm so-so sorry Mr. Grendel! I really am! Wh-what can I do to make it up?"
Regaining his composure, Gren glared bloody murder.
"What can you do? Ha... that's a laugh. Tell me, what exactly is your name, you self worthy Hand slaver?"
The norn stared, trembling a bit. Finally, she shakily muttered, "Alicia."
"Ah... Alicia. So I see. You know what? I think I will spare your life... but only," it was at this Gren paused and raised a boney claw, "Only if you let me have that egg for myself."
"My egg?! What would you want with my egg? I can't spare that!"
"Well, you should've thought of that before coming here," Gren sizzled, swooping up the egg and standing mightily before Alicia. "Good day, dear Norn. I hope your trip back is absolutely dreadful."
And with that, Gren sent the lift back down into the Observatory. He fumed silently, tossing the small egg into the rubbish heap in the corner of the room. Hearing the pitiful sobs coming from upstairs, he gave a little self righteous grin. "That ought to show her. Next time maybe she'll use a little more common sense about coming here," he thought grandly, settling himself comfortably on the floor. Soon, he fell asleep, as Alicia cried her heart and soul out.
Ocean waves, a hunger gnawling in his stomach, and the sounds of cracking greeted Gren as he groggily woke up. He opened his eyes slowly, adjusting them to the sudden burst of light. When that was done, he stumpled quickly to his feet, ready to retrieve the rotten, cracked coconut near the rubbish for his somewhat meager breakfast. As he stepped heavily over to the heap, he noticed a slight bit of movement under his moth eaten blanket and... some sort of sound like cracking, and a baby cooing.
"It couldn't be," he thought naively to himself, "Norn's eggs don't hatch out that quickly, that I'm sure of." But he wasn't as sure as he thought when the blanket heaved around and a delicate hand appeared. Before Gren even knew it, a little baby norn grinned up at him, waving his hands around and burbling excitedly to himself.
Gren's first instinct was to strangle the little nothing, and throw his mangled corpse out into the ocean. He was about to do so, when the little thing curled himself around Gren's legs, and stared affectionately towards him. Gren's upraised claw trembled, and he darted his eyes around, undecisive. Suddenly, he flung the baby norn off of his feet, and fled over to the other side of the room.
The little boy sat stunned, then whimpered uneasily and dragged himself onto a pile of dust, where he tried unsuccessfully to bury his body into. Finally, he settled into a little notch he had made in the dust, and laid down in it, trembling slightly.
For the first time in his life, the Grendel had no idea what to do. Millions of voices danced in his head, telling him to kill, strangle, or even eat the thing out of its misery. But one came above them all, and for some reason... this voice told him to do something other than slaughtering the norn.
"It must be hungry... give it some food," it sang, its voice soft and soothing.
"No way!" the other voices cried. "Give it food? That's unbelieveable!"
Gren sat there, confused as to what to do. Finally, he shook his head decisively, and stood up. Out of the rubbish heap, he came up with an ancient jar of honey, seal still permanently in place and full to the brim. He was saving this for a special day, when food was so low he could barely even get up to feed himself. Instead, he popped the lid off, and shoved it towards the norn.
It slid its head up, and stared forlornly at the jar. Finally it struggled to its feet, and took a taste. Soon the jar was empty and on its side... not a drop left in it.
Gren was surprised at how quickly the little thing ate. He opened and closed his claws, unsure what to do next. But before he even knew it, the norn was at his side, snuggled comfortably against his smooth skin, and fast asleep.
The Grendel look down. He took out one claw, and scratched the little boy's head affectionately, ruffling its mohawk into curls. A relationship was born....
Days passed, and before Gren knew it, the newborn had changed into a child. He even stared proudly as the norn took his first tottering steps to Gren's side, a sweet smile on his face. He named him Fig, a very respectible name among the Grendel kind, and Fig wore his name with pride. It took Fig quite awhile before he could even speak properly, often saying foolish syllables to express himself. One was "Fi-ig eem Gwen!" which took awhile for Gren to compensate that that meant "Fig come Gren". Either way, Gren found himself with a new emotion to deal with... parental love. It was an uncomfortable, and rather confusing emotion to deal with, but still Gren put up with it.
Until one day, an enraged knocking came upon the end of the lift, and The Hand appeared. It seemed furious, shaking uncontrolably and waving around the room like a maniac.
"Take my baby norn will you? Abuse and mistreat them too I'll bet! I'll teach you my disgusting worm devoured jerk!" and with that, it started slamming Gren against the walls and slapping coldly at his face. The Grendel grunted and cried in pain, huddling down into a small ball and turning his back against the blows. Poor Fig stood by amazed, and scared beyond belief. Here was his Father, the one he grew to love being beaten by some unknown terror.
When The Hand had its fill, it faced the young norn and pointed at him. "Come on," it said gruffly, "Let's leave this little monster behind and I'll take you back to your rightful home."
Fig shook his head furiously and stared defiantly at The Hand. "Nono! Gwen fwiend! Fig wun Hand!" he cried out desperately, and reached for the up button on the lift. However, The Hand suddenly raced by his side, and started beating the little norn off of the button panel.
"You little creep," it growled dangerously, "From now on, that beast is not your friend... and I'm your rightful parent, along with that poor norn family back in the Gardens."
"Nono Fig!" he sobbed, crawling around the floor and trying to reach for Gren.
The Hand punched him again, and dragged him up by the arm.
"Act like a decent norn! Also, your name isn't Fig... its now Benedict. Fig indeed, Benedict is a far more respectable name."
Benedict bawled as The Hand slapped him again and again up the lift....
When Gren woke up, the world looked red.
He gingerly stood up, holding in various parts of his body that felt beaten and broken. The remainder of the room was destroyed, smashed to ruins by The Hand and his fellow minions. But worst of all, Fig was gone....
The thought wasn't even passed before Gren was up the lift and racing towards the dock. He searched desperately among the ocean, looking for the tiniest clue that Fig was still here.
Gren slumped down, his eyes tearing as the dock ship came towards him. Most of all, he was stunned that he would never see his little Fig anymore. He was gone... forever it seemed.
"And they call us the monsters..." he thought, as he trudged back to the lift, a newly ruined Grendel.
It was a gorgeous Albian day. Somehow, it all felt right that it should be... this was the first time Gren had a chance of seeing his "adopted" son, Fig, again. Even the Cloud Butterflies felt it, swarming around in clumps around the aged Grendel and even sacrifying the chance to brush a wing or two on his nose. Gren smiled, and a few wrinkles ran their way up his forehead. It had been months since The Hand had stolen Fig. Since then, the glycotoxin poison running free in Gren's veins had taken their tole. He was blind in one eye, never to use it again, and his once regal back was now stooped down with age.
But still, that didn't take away the fact that he was taking a chance, a slim and dangerous one, but a chance, to get a glimpse of Fig. Just to see that he was still alive, well, and living a good life. That was all Gren wanted, was to see that he was happy.
Gren sighed wistfully, and continued down the path towards the Pavillion. So far, he hadn't been spotted, and he took that as a sign from someone above that this was a good plan. It wasn't long before he heard deep male voices, and a weedling feminine giggle. Gren quickly hid behind the shadow of the potted Feverfew, and looked at the scene ahead.
Two male norns were staring lustily at a little petite female norn. She looked of Purple Mountain heritage, having arms and legs of a PMN, but had a red tail and white haired head. However, she looked rather uncomfortable, shuffling about but still smiling and giggling all the same. The males danced around her, trying their best to impress her with their antics, and the female smiled unwillingly. They kept on however, until finally she slapped them, and turned her back. The males finally got the message, and turned to go.
Soon, the two males retreated, and the female was left alone. She looked extremely tired, and her arms sagged. Gren almost came out of his shelter and embraced her, knowing that she must feel so unworthy. But he didn't, knowing that it was an extremely dangerous idea and he was in enough of it as it was. It was then that Gren saw...
...Fig. Appearing out of no where and coming up to the female, arms out in a hug. She grinned, and held out her own arms in the same fashion, awaiting for the embrace. The Grendel was amazed at how much older and wiser Fig looked, no longer a child but an adult. Already he looked many times bigger than Gren, but still, he knew it was him. The impish, twinkling look he had grown to know so well was there, in this norn's eyes... it had to be Fig.
It took all of Gren's energy just to not run out, knock the female down, and cry out Fig's name. However, he stayed where he was, waiting for the most perfect time to make himself known.
After the initial hug between Fig and the female, they stood back and started talking.
"Allegra! How are you? I haven't seen ya for so long!" Fig started, grinning broadly. "Is the prenancy going well?"
It was at this Allegra lost most of her gleam, and slightly wilted. "No," she whispered, "It was a stillborn. I grieved for the longest time too. But... Hand says it wasn't my fault. Everyone knows that the Grendel comes out and blows his evil, mystic breath on all pregnant female. That's how stillborns are made ya'know." After this long sentence, Allegra stood back and smiled self consciously, pleased with her cleverness.
Gren, however, was stunned. Was this one of the lies The Hand spread around? That he, intentionally, went out and killed Norns for no reason? Even going out and having the power to make healthy babies into stillborns, and not mentioning Mother Nature for it? He started shaking with rage, claws clenching and spasmically opening up.
"Awww, Allegra. Don't tell me you go for that crap. You know that Hand makes these things up, just to put the blame on others. I'm sure that the Grendel wouldn't -and couldn't- do such a thing," Fig consoled, his eyes too flashing a little bit with anger.
"How would you know Benedict?" Allegra retorted, "Hand knows everything, and why should I trust you anyways? You're the one who was raised by that... that... monster!" Allegra practically screeched on the last word, before wheeling around and running back into the Kitchen.
"Allegra! Wait!" he called, hand reaching out to the vacant space where she once was. Fig's eyes dimmed, and he sat down, heart broken.
Gren took his chance. He stood up from his crouched position, and started walking towards Fig. Once he reached the Baobab plant, Gren coughed a little and tried to catch Fig's attention. It worked.
His head snapped up, and Fig's eyes widened. Gren only stood there, too overjoyed to even speak. Only the periodic fluting call of the birds broke the silence that was happening between the two. Soon Fig put out a tentative hand to touch Gren's claw, then abruptly pulled away. Finally, he was able to work his jaw loose, and Fig spoke.
"You're... you're alive," he whispered, awestruck. "I-I can't believe it. I thought Hand killed you that night... when...."
"That's enough son," Gren answered. "I'm alive, that's sure; a little blind, and a little crippled, but still breathing. Now close that mouth before I have to close it myself. I can't stay too long." He smiled affectionately towards Fig, and leaned a little on the post that supported the Pavillion. "Now tell me, how is my little Fig?"
"I'm... all right," Fig admitted, "It's not a bad life. But I still miss you Gren. I even have a mate... sort of." Fig suddenly shut up, and looked a little ashamed. "Though she doesn't really think we are..."
"Allegra is it? Heh, she's trouble I'll guarantee that. However, I'm sorry that this encounter has been brief, but I really must go before someone discovers me."
"Oh! Please don't Gren! I don't know what to-" But Fig never got the chance to finish his sentence. At that moment Allegra was walking up from the Kitchen, looking apolegetic, when she spotted Gren.
Albia stopped. Or at least it felt like it, for all three of them wouldn't do anything but look at each other. Finally she spoke.
"Oh my Hand-" Allegra quickly covered his mouth, face full of panic and shock, then gave a muffled scream. "Benedict, I never thought, never did, oh my Hand, oh my Hand... you're with him!" Blubbering, she fell back on her haunches, and started screaming.
Fig/Benedict ran forward and reached for Allegra, but she flinched away. She continued screaming, yelling and cursing Fig and Gren with all her might, and hardly ever taking a chance to catch a breath. Her face gradually turned red, to the point that Fig had to stoop down and clamp a hand over her mouth before she called attention to all of Albia.
However, the Kitchen Clan had heard Allegra's insane screaming, and voices were urgently calling to the scene. It wasn't long before the first norn was spotted running towards them, a half-chewed carrot still in his hand from his early morning breakfast. His mouth dropped open at the sight that was before him, and he nearly dropped the carrot from surprise. Other norns were pushing from behind, ready to fight whatever that was causing such an uproar. They too, paused dramatically when they saw the frantic Allegra, a blushing Fig, and Gren... standing quietly with his eyes glazed over.
"It's the Grendel!" many norns quickly shouted, assuming that this legendary monster would be the root of all problems.
"Kill him!" yelled one rambunctious young norn, holding up the Coffee pot viciously.
"I say drive him out before he does anything worse," another answered, this one holding down the Coffee before the youngster could hit anyone in the eye.
All of the Norns started calling simultaneously, jeering towards the slumped Grendel, and claiming different ways of getting rid of him. A couple started towards Gren, anxious to get a few kicks on his hide. If it wasn't for Fig who abruptly pushed them back, both of them would have seriously injured the frail Grendel.
Gren just sat there through the whole riot, looking as if he really wasn't there spiritually. His eyes were half closed, and he listened vaguely to the upraised voices of the Norns as they tried to decide his verdict. Suddenly he felt his arm jerked up by some unseen force, and he was brutally twisted around into the presence of The Hand.
It just hovered there above his head, saying nothing and doing nothing. The rest of the Norns were suddenly silent, not saying a thing in front of their guardian. They shuffled about awkwardly, until finally The Hand cast a meaningful finger towards their direction, and that too ceased. The only sound left in the whole Garden was the quiet whimpers of Allegra.
Abruptly, the Hand spoke.
"Gren... I'm surprised at you. We left you alone, peacefully I might add. Yet you still come back here, searching for your..." It paused, then spat out, "Fig."
Gren lightly fluttered his eyes, then glanced at the ground again. He seemed too hopeless for words.
Suddenly, a small, but determined, voice spoke up.
"Let me see him.... please," it said, and out of the crowd came a tiny girl norn. She was of regular variety of norns it seemed, except for one unique features. Her eyes. They were beyond enchanting, blue with a few flecks of silver. However, they were blind eyes, for they seemed to be fixated on one particular spot.
"A child of the mind," Gren thought vaguely, and a small smile stirred before collapsing.
The girl norn shuffled slightly forward, and laid a paw on Gren's shoulder. No one opposed even to this touch, the other norns seemed to shocked for words, and The Hand stayed silent. She slid her paw down, feeling his scales and getting an idea of his image. She paused slightly when she came to the irregular shaped claw, but lightly touched the tips before continuing up to his face. Finally, after what seemed hours, she stopped and faced the crowd.
"I don't see why you feel so harshly towards him," she stated. "He seems to be just like us, only... different. But everyone is different from each other, aren't they? I'm blind, others tell me there are norns with a Saturn gene, and that norns can come in all shades of the rainbow. We don't disclude them, do we? So why should we disclude the Grendel?"
Her small voice had raised in triumph on that last word, and she fell silent. Many of the other norns seemed ashamed, staring remorsefully at the ground and up into the sky. Even the one norn who had shook the Coffee pot so bloodthirstily seemed crestfallen.
Suddenly, he looked up and walked determinely towards Gren. He dropped the pot, and leaned towards him... and gave Gren a small tickle. Gren instinctively giggled, and the little norn smiled. Soon others joined him, and they all gave Gren hugs. Fig and the blind norn gave especially large ones.
When they had all finished, they stopped the smiles and laughs and looked towards The Hand solemnly. The Hand hovered quietly, apparentally having an internal battle, and then seemed to droop. It then went over to Gren and gave him a tickle.
"I guess I was wrong," it murmured, and tickled Gren again.
Gren could only grin. He felt relief, and smiled.
"Happily Ever Afters can happen to Grendels too," he mused, then turned towards Fig for another hug....
"Unkie Gwen!" a small norn cried delightfully.
Gren looked down upon the norn, and lifted him up on his lap. The child squirmed a little, but was grinning all the same.
"Hey kiddo," he teased, then lifted him up in the air. The norn squealed and waved his arms delightedly.
Fig and Allegra watched on as their son, Gregory, played with Gren. The two laughed and chased each other, even though Gren was a little slow. Fig smiled, and leaned towards Allegra, who's small belly was already large with another child. She seemed content, and leaned on him too.
The blind female who saved Gren's life, Lisa, came hurrying over to the couple. She waved a greeting, and sat down near them.
"How's things going?" she asked, and cocked an amused ear towards the sounds of Gren and Gregory playing. "Busy it seems."
"Oh, great!" Fig said. "Gregory has really gotten attached to Gren... and the sad thing is, he forgets his old dad sometimes."
Gregory turned towards his father. "Do not!" he declared. "Love dad too!" and ran over to Fig, who gave him a hug.
Gren looked on happily. It seemed things were going all right. The Hand even exchanged a kind word or two sometimes, although he was more often than not aloof. He shuffled over to the small group of norns, and sat down.
Suddenly, Fig picked up the nearby drum, and started playing a beat on it. They all ended up singing a folk song, and Gren sang with with, heartily. He looked at each of them against the glow of the kitchen fire, Fig, Allegra, Lisa... and Gregory. He smiled again, and raised his voice up with theirs. For once, he was truly happy.